May 5, 2010
Howard Stern Goes to Shul
Howard waited until late in the show today to announce that for the first time in his adult life, he was going to a synagogue to pray. I missed the segment (I heard him talking about a staffer named Shuli, not shul), but I read about it at the excellent howardstern.com site.
As I’ve written elsewhere on this blog, Howard has the same tortured relationship with organized Jewish religion that many of his peers have. Think Woody Allen, Phillip Roth, Larry David, Neil Simon—Howard is their radio equivalent—and all of them have skewered the faith they had shoved down their throats as children.
Howard has taken that to hysterical extremes—playing his squeaky-viced bar mitzvah tapes for comic effect, inviting the comedian Gilbert Gottfried in to do shtick as a rabbi, deriding—often with good reason— the emptiness of the bar mitzvahs he’s forced to attend. But…
But it is not surprising that as he’s matured, he has come to a deeper, spiritual understanding of what Judaism has to offer. If you look at Roth’s writings, even Woody Allen’s later movies, you see the same evolution. These men accumulate success, fame, money, but inevitably they look for more. In their art, they are often asking big questions in funny ways. In their lives, they are prone to asking the same big questions. Their obsession with mocking Judaism belies an obsession with Judaism, a sense that there’s more there there, that the religion that disappointed them so as adolescents could perhaps sustain them as adults.
I don’t know what crisis Howard is undergoing— His children? Beth’s need for a child? His parent’s aging? Artie? His career choice? How dumb am I to even speculate?—but I do know that religion done right—Judaism done right— can be a powerful tool for guiding one through turmoil, indecision, darkness.
“Imperfection holds the sparks of holiness,” wrote Rabbi Irwin Kula in his book Yearnings, “we must understand the wisdom of our yearnings.”
Hang in there Howard….